Question 95 of 365: What do teams solve?

Groups seem to be the holy grail of social networks. From Linked-in groups to the new Facebook communities to the millions of people self-organizing in Ning networks, groups have become the default setting for communication and collaboration. When you are in doubt about the effectiveness of your web application, throw groups in, and you will have a winner. When there is nothing left to hang your hat on, set up a team that will send out e-mails to everyone multiple times a day.

And it makes sense. People want to organize around an idea. They want to set themselves up to answer the problems that a single set of people have. Where it all goes wrong is that people start to believe that by simply setting up a team, they have solved something significant. They work so hard to organize themselves that the energy for action just isn’t there. Even in the ease of grouping within a hashtag, very little seems to be done that isn’t in the effort of maintaining the grouping rather than moving it forward.

Teams are meant to change, to be modified, to evolve. And yet, we are creating teams and groups online that have no ability to become something different than what they once were. Once you are a “fan”, the group doesn’t change. Once you are a member of a Linked-in group, the members are mostly stagnant. And that is sad.

I want teams with iterations. I want the ability to change the purpose for any given group that I am within. Restating our hypothesis continually is the only way that I know to create rather than persist. And that is why Friendster is dead. That is why Ning networks grow and die. It is why people can leave behind entire bodies of work online when they are no longer interested in having those same old conversations.

So, why not let groups evolve. Why not allow ideas to branch naturally, one from another until you are working with only the people that are as invested as you are in solving the problem at hand. Why does the process of self-selection have to be the last democratic act that you can contribute to a group?

Here is what I am proposing:

  • Self-select into a group.
  • State your bias and interest in associating with the group.
  • Establish a great schism within the group because of either disagreements, reevaluation of needs, or interest in solving different problems.
  • Split groups, rename both, and reestablish bias and interest for the new groups.

With this in mind, teams never become bloated. Lurkers don’t outweigh participants. People aren’t cc’d because they exist, they are informed for consent in decisions. People have ownership in their group, because they are continually in the process of remaking it. They need it, because it needs them to thrive.

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